We’ve all been there — the heat was too high, or perhaps we let it sit for too long on the stove while we were dealing with something else, and now we have a blackened pan in our hands. How do we get it cleaned to its former luster? If you said “scrubbing as hard as I can,” then you’re missing out on the correct way to do things, because every type of cookware has a different, better technique to get it bright and clean again.
Say goodbye to using harsh oven cleaner on your pots and pans (potentially voiding the warranty) or that old myth about soaking them in cola (that’s just a waste of good cola), because these tips will have them back their former glory in no time.
Vinegar and baking soda
Vinegar and baking soda are probably one of the most effective-yet-underrated cleaning combos ever, since it disinfects, removes stains, and now they’re your best ally when cleaning cookware. All you have to do is pour equal parts of vinegar and water on the pan, heat it up until it boils for a minute, then remove from the fire and let the mix go down the drain. Add a tablespoon of baking soda and use a scouring pad on the affected surface, then rinse. It’s important that you get rid of the vinegar before adding the baking soda on the pan because you’ll get a science fair situation going on otherwise.
For most stains and materials, this is the stuff of miracles. Apply one part water and three parts BKF paste on the bottom of the pan, then let it sit for ten minutes. Scrub it with a non-scratch sponge and watch all your problems run away with the water down the drain. This will work perfectly on stainless steel and cast iron, which is about 50% of all burned-on stains you’ll encounter in the wild.
Salt and lemon
Salt is an abrasive measure but it won’t damage your pans like other solutions do. The coarser the salt the better, so if you have kosher, use it generously with your best dish detergent and some hot water, then “massage” it onto the burnt or stained part with a lemon half. This is especially good for getting rid of scorch marks and burnt grease, and is so inoffensive to your pans that it should be your first option every time.
Cleaning cast iron
A well-seasoned cast iron skillet will prevent most foods from sticking to it, but that doesn’t stop some things from getting caked or burn onto the surface. If this happens, you can rub a mixture of regular cooking oil and salt (again, the more coarse, the better) over the affected spot with a cloth or towel, then rinse. In case the stain proves stronger than that, replace the cooking oil with salt and make a paste out of it, and scrub it out. You might have to re-season the skillet after that, though.
Using glass cookware does not save us from sometimes having to scrub out a spot where food burned or got stuck, but taking it out is a little easier than on regular pots and pans. All you have to do putting the dish in the sink then fill it with hot water. Add baking soda to the water and let is soak for a while. Then all you have to do is scrub using a non-abrasive scouring pad (to prevent nasty scratches) and wash it out with hot, soapy water. Try leaving the baking soda and water soak for a long while before attempting to remove the stain.
Copper cookware is very pretty to look at, and they add a dash of style to any kitchen, but they’re painfully easy to stain. They also get dull over time, so you don’t even have to use them to get an ugly stain on them. Luckily, the solution is very simple; just pour in vinegar all over the outside of the pan, then sprinkle with salt, and finally pour some more vinegar over the thing. Scrub gently but firmly with a non-abrasive scouring pad, rinse and dry.
Getting everything in your kitchen clean and spotless means you’ll have an easier time when cooking or eating there, but few things are as important as having your pots and pans in working condition. If getting that burnt food out of your cookware took you longer than planned, how about leaving the rest of your chores to the pros? You’ll be glad you did.